The Haar Disciples suffered their first defeat in the new Bundesliga-South season with a split against the Heidenheim Heideköpfe over the weekend. The word "split" seems to have vanished from the vocabulary of the Munich Caribes though. Two divisions lower in the Regionalliga Southeast, the Caribes swept up in their two home games against the Ellwangen Elks to boost their season record to 8-0.
In a bit of a paradox, the results of the first-division clubs were high-scoring affairs while the contests of the Caribes and Elks were low-scoring, nail-biting contests. Quite often, scores in the lower leagues of German baseball can look more like something from the National Football League with results like 18-13 or 22-14. The reason often being a poor defense, poorer pitching, and the use of aluminium bats that helps the batters.
But in Haar on Saturday, in the 1. Bundesliga where wooden bats are in use, the game results were 16-8 for Heidenheim and 10-6 for Haar. The Disciples are now 3-1 so far this season. Heidenheim quickly took control of the first game, scoring seven runs in the first two innings. Haar fought back to reduce the lead to 7-4 heading into the eighth inning. Heidenheim then turned on the power, scoring six times in the eighth inning and adding three more in the ninth. The visitors hit three home runs - one apiece by Simon Gühring, Robert Gruber and Peter Dankerl. Gruber led his club with four runs batted in (RBIs). For Haar, the batting leader in game one was Michael Stephan, with two home runs. Teammate Josh Petersen also hit a round-tripper.
The second game was a bit of an anomaly with its high score. A casual fan of Germany's 1. Bundesliga baseball might be puzzled when seeing how second games are usually low- or at least lower - scoring. The reason is that under German baseball rules, foreign pitchers may be used in the entire second game with no limit on their innings pitched. So often, game two will see match-ups of perhaps a US pitcher against an Australian, or a Canadian import versus a Dominican, and the game will turn out to be what they call a "pitchers duel."
But in game two in Haar, with two US pitchers - Brian Shields (Haar) and Jack Frawley (Heidenheim) - going against each other, the teams combined for 16 runs and over 20 hits. In game two, Haar showed their resilience with a come-from-behind win. After six innings, the score was 6-3 in Heidenheim's favour but the Disciples scored six times in the seventh inning to take a 9-6 lead, which they never relinquished. Haar's pitcher Fields went the entire nine-inning distance, throwing a mind-boggling 142 pitches in the process, giving up eight hits and four walks, but also striking out six Heidenheim batters.
The Disciples' batters tallied a total of 14 hits in the second game, including home runs from Petersen - who had four RBIs in the contest - and Stephan. Lorenzo Dadynoel, a Dominican who just joined the team a week earlier, led Haar in total hits with four. That offense was enough to make Frawley the losing pitcher. In his sixth and one-third innings, he gave up eight earned runs and 13 hits.
Meanwhile the Caribes, who so far this season had been racking up some lopsided wins in the Regionalliga (where they also play with wooden bats), were forced to work hard by a tough Ellwangen Elks team. The final scores were 5-2 and 5-1, with the pitchers on both sides making life hard for the hitters.
In the first game, it looked like the Caribes were off and running to another easy, high-scoring win, when they scored four runs in the first inning, getting some key hits from player-coach Steve Walker, and fellow-Americans Nick Angstman and Ty Eriksen. But after that, Elks starting pitcher Alex Wanszek settled down and kept the Caribes' offense quiet. An exception was a home run by Angstman for what became Munich's 5th and final run.
The Elks' batters meanwhile did not have much more success against Walker and then Angstman pitching for the Caribes. But the visitors did take advantage of some uncharacteristic fielding errors from the Caribes to get their two runs. Walker had warned before the game that Ellwangen are well-coached and play tough, fundamentally-sound baseball. He was proven right as the Elks kept threatening to the very end.
Game two was a tight affair as well, with the score tied at 1-1 after three innings. The Caribes then squeezed out two runs each in their fourth and fifth innings in a combination of some aggressive baserunning and timely hitting to take a 5-1 lead, which became the final result. Especially good news for the Caribes is that the final four innings were pitched by German youngster Jakob Lipke, who allowed only two hits and struck out five batters while giving up no runs. Lipke had missed virtually the entire 2012 season due to injury, but looked impressive on his comeback. It's a rare case where a German pitcher is looking just as good as his American counterparts but for Lipke that much is certainly true.
Haar's junior varsity team, playing in the 2. Bundesliga-South agains Heidenheim's second team, didn't fare as well as the senior team. They lost both contests at home on Sunday by scores of 9-3 and 10-3. The Haar second team thereby remain without a win yet this season, boasting six defeats and last place in the 7-team 2. Bundesliga-South league instead.
Elsewhere in the Regionalliga Southeast, the Gauting Indians managed a split playing away at the Stuttgart Reds. Stuttgart won the first game 12-2, while the Indians salvaged the nightcap 7-3, to make their long drive back home a bit easier. Gauting's season record stands at 5-3, good enough for second place in the 8-team regional league behind the Munich Caribes. So possibly a duel between the two Munich-region clubs is in the making, with the two scheduled to meet in Gauting on June 8th.